Feeds

New Horizons off to Pluto

Successful launch for NASA mission

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

New Horizons blasts off. Photo: NASANASA's New Horizons' mission to Pluto blasted off yesterday from Cape Canaveral - the first step in a 10-year, one-way trip.

According to the NASA press release, the Atlas V rocket carrying the vehicle lifted off at 14:00 EST. It separated from the solid fuel "kick motor" a tad under 45 minutes later. Five minutes after that, radio signals from New Horizons confirmed that all was well.

Dr Colleen Hartman, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, enthused: "Today, NASA began an unprecedented journey of exploration to the ninth planet in the solar system. Right now, what we know about Pluto could be written on the back of a postage stamp. After this mission, we'll be able to fill textbooks with new information."

Dr. Alan Stern, New Horizons' principal investigator, indulged in a bit of flag-waving with: "The United States of America has just made history by launching the first spacecraft to explore Pluto and the Kuiper Belt beyond. No other nation has this capability. This is the kind of exploration that forefathers, like Lewis and Clark 200 years ago this year, made a trademark of our nation."

There's still a long way to go, though. The NASA blurb explains:

"The 1,054-pound, piano-sized spacecraft is the fastest ever launched, speeding away from Earth at approximately 36,000 miles per hour, on a trajectory that will take it more than three billion miles toward its primary science target. New Horizons will zip past Jupiter for a gravity assist and science studies in February 2007, and conduct the first close-up, in-depth study of Pluto and its moons in summer 2015. As part of a potential extended mission, the spacecraft would then examine one or more additional objects in the Kuiper Belt - the region of ancient, icy, rocky bodies (including Pluto) far beyond Neptune's orbit."

New Horizons packs, as we previously reported, "imaging infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers, a multi-color camera, a long-range telescopic camera, two particle spectrometers, a space-dust detector and a radio science experiment".

The vehicle will spend most of its jaunt in hibernation mode, sending out a weekly beacon signal to report on status. Once a year, scientists will perform a health check to monitor "critical systems, calibrate instruments and perform course corrections, if necessary". New Horizons gets its juice from "a single radioisotope thermoelectric generator" and consumes less than 200 watts.

Once at Pluto, New Horizons will "characterize the global geology and geomorphology of Pluto and Charon [Pluto's moon], map their surface compositions and temperatures, and examine Pluto's atmospheric composition and structure". ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.